Forest issues: SC directs Centre to appoint national regulator

CourtA three-judge forest bench headed by Justice A K Patnaik also ordered the Centre to file an affidavit on compliance of its order by March 31, 2014.

The Supreme Court today directed the Centre to appoint a national regulator to oversee the implementation of forest policy, rejecting its contention that there was no need for such a body.

A three-judge forest bench headed by Justice A K Patnaik also ordered the Centre to file an affidavit on compliance of its order by March 31, 2014.

"We direct the Union of India to appoint Regulator with its offices in as many states as possible," the bench, also comprising justices S S Nijjar and F M I Kalifulla, said while rejecting the plea of Ministry of Environment and Forests

(MoEF) that there was no need to appoint a regulator to oversee the implementation of forest policy.

The bench made it clear that the clearances under the Forest Act would be granted by the MoEF but the regulator will see the implementation of the Forest Policy of 1998.

Further, it said that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification of 2006 would now be dealt directly by the National Regulator for every project.

While directing the appointment of the national regulator, the bench said it has become necessary as the present system for EIA under the central government was deficient.

A senior advocate associated with the matter said this order has a far-reaching impact and it would be difficult from now onwards to ease the tough EIA scrutiny of projects and to allow their early clearance.

While asking the MoEF to file its affidavit on the compliance of its order by March 31, the bench posted the matter for hearing on April 7.

The apex court's order came on a plea of MoEF seeking modification of the 2011 decision in which it had directed the

central government to appoint a national regulator for "appraising projects, enforcing environmental conditions for approvals and to impose penalties on polluters".

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